The internet has provided us with a global sized playground, most often left unsupervised by an attending teacher. On this platform, some offer free refreshing lemonade, but many just sling sour lemons claiming them delicious. With our modern means of communication, everyone now has the ability to report the news. Very few however, have the journalistic discipline to research these subjects that they continually attest to be an authority on. Too many regurgitate hearsay and gossip as reliable fact, and what is even more concerning, is that just as many adopt it as such.
Nobody takes the effort to seek out proof and gather evidence for the information that is spewed from social media sites anymore. Especially when a story is consistent with theories that the reader already holds precious, no supporting data is required for that individual to share it as far and wide as their ‘friend’ list allows them to.
Even if a person was to attempt to gather evidence that is consistent with the story presented to them, this would not be enough. The whole premise of what qualifies as proof needs to be examined. We search for data that is consistent with the theory we believe in, rather than discovering factual evidence that supports it.
A Lie Told Often Enough, Becomes The Truth – Vladimir Lenin
Among our youth of today, how many watch the news? Read the news? Drowning in dis-information of the world-wide surf, our kids have little protection against falsified data and outright lies being offered as truth.
A disturbing post recently circulated on Facebook, showed an image of the broken soul of Tom Riddle from the Harry Potter franchise. The individual responsible for the post falsely claimed the picture to be the photograph of an aborted fetus. Luckily, a sharp-eyed individual spotted this deception, but not before the image gained a couple of hundred comments, and ‘lord’ knows how many shares.
Starry, Starry Night
A couple of years ago around Christmas time, an elderly man came knocking at my front door around 6:30pm. This hour of December is dark and very cold. The fellow spoke little to no English, but showed me a small laminated card that he had made himself. It stated that he was not asking for a hand out. He was merely trying to sell his artwork to carry him over the Christmas period.
He handed me a folder containing charcoal sketches, individually protected in plastic sleeves. Each one was incredible, he had an amazing talent. Unfortunately, although he would only charge ten pounds per piece, I was only due to be paid the following Tuesday. I asked if he would return so that I could purchase a couple of pages from his collection.
As I closed the front door, the woman who was my partner at that time came rushing up the hallway brandishing her phone, and told me to read the article on the screen. She said that we ought to lock the back doors to our house.
On the phone was a Facebook post with a heading that read, “Romanian Scam!! One distracts by selling art at the front while the other enters your house from the rear to rob you!” The first paragraph of the message described how an old man would pretend to sell his art to keep you at the door long enough for his accomplice to enter through the back door and steal your children’s presents from under the tree.
As I read on, it quickly became apparent that this was just a baseless theory of one paranoid woman who had instructed her husband to threaten and chase off the artist. It seemed that no-one was reading the article past the headline. Locally, the post was spreading quickly with escalating comments that threatened violence to any unexpected visitors. The police felt that they had to intervene.
They caught up with the old gentleman before he had even finished calling upon the houses of my street. They told him that a post claiming him a thief had begun to go viral and that it was no longer safe for him to try to sell his craft.
I don’t know what he did to raise money for his family that Christmas, but needless to say he never returned for the promised sale that following Tuesday.
For at least one individual, Christmas would be a lot harder and depressing than it needed to be. Who is responsible for this sadness though? The woman releasing her paranoid rant to social media, or the readers who accepted her theory as fact without question.